A survey was conducted in Uganda about the tourism industry after the outbreak of the Corona Virus in China and the rest of the world and it found that among the 361 safari tour operators more than 86% of operators are experiencing a significant decline in bookings due to fears of the corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak. Common amongst the comments from safari operators was that the corona virus was affecting their safari business as some clients are putting their bookings on hold while others have canceled.
The initiative for the survey was taken after receiving disturbing feedback from safari operators who were reporting that bookings had declined significantly due to the corona virus outbreak. The survey found that about a quarter of operators experienced a staggering 75% decrease in bookings. Only 14% reported no decrease and for these operators it has been business as usual. It is a heavy blow for the tourism industry and the numerous wildlife reserves that rely on its revenue.
The potential client where asking questions about options to delay or cancel their trip without penalties and any costs that they may incur or whether they will be able to postpone.
There is a clear sense of frustration amongst safari operators because as one operator put it, “the fear for this disease is causing a direct negative impact on our business” yet there is no single case in Uganda.
The Corona virus outbreak in China and Africa
China has about 2 million people that live and work on the African continent and there are more than 80,000 African students, tourists and businessmen who work and live in China with Africa becoming the fastest urbanizing continent globally and China being its biggest trade partner.
The first African case of Covid-19 was recently reported in Egypt and people who have been suspected of carrying the virus have been quarantined in Ethiopia, Kenya, the Ivory Coast and Botswana. Africa’s resource dependent economies are braced for a slowdown as Covid-19 hits demand from one of its biggest buyers China, sending oil prices lower and affecting the Tourism numbers in Africa.
China has had a mass shutdown in areas linked to tourism and manufacturing, which have been shaken by a ban on outbound tourists and supply chain disruption arising from factory closures in order to prevent the virus from spreading even further. Port closures in China have caused oil importers to cancel their purchases, forcing sellers to look elsewhere.
By paralyzing the world’s largest importer and second consumer of oil, this virus attacks the heart of the global economy; China accounts for more than 16% of the world economy and with China stopped, economic activities around the world are directly and indirectly affected. As if the ‘Covid-19’ hit globalization at its heart.
As evidently witnessed, the timing of the outbreak has exacerbated the impact on transportation and fuel demand in China and also has coincided with the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays as millions of Chinese return home to celebrate with family members and friends, or travel abroad.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against travel restrictions and also identified 13 top priority countries in Africa i.e. Algeria, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia that are of higher risk due to their direct links and high volume of travel to China.
In its latest Advisory to Uganda, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has reemphasized the government’s commitment to ensuring that the country is free of the corona virus outbreak as at the moment there is no case of the disease in the country.
UTB says travelers from affected countries will be required to undergo a 14 day isolation process for daily monitoring by the Ministry of Health. These countries include; China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It is therefore the recommendation and that intended travelers to Uganda from the affected countries maintain their bookings but delay their travel until a later date when the disease is globally contained and no longer considered a big problem.
Additionally, due to the current threat posed by Corona virus to the Ugandan tourism industry and assets, it is the recommendation that;
• All tour operators, travel agencies, and accommodation facilities provide hand washing facilities with soap at their premises and on-board travel vehicles and vessels